March 26 (GIN) – A fresh tragedy has illuminated the Central African Republic, a country in the exact center of the continent that has been tossed between coups and takeover attempts since the departure of French colonizers in 1960.

A coalition of rebel forces–“Seleka,” meaning “coalition” in the Sanogo language–broke a recently-signed ceasefire and began burning a path toward the capital city, Bangui, taking control of the country’s northern and southeastern states. By March 22, they were 75 miles from Bangui. President Francois Bozize, protected by only a thin army of South Africans, took flight, leaving the South African forces exposed.

During the rebel advance, 13 South African soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded, the South African president’s office said. One soldier was unaccounted for.

In an interview, Milton Allimadi, publisher of the Black Star News, derided the toothless ceasefire, confirming the view that it was a temporary patch over a “mafia turf war” and a split of the government’s spoils.

“The deal had excluded the most important elements of the Central African Republic–the civilians and leaders of civil society organizations,” he said. “The country needed a national dialogue that would also embrace non-combatants and that the solution could not be only offered by the armed combatants, Bozizi’s forces and Seleka otherwise the agreement could not endure.

“The peace keepers from the Central African Republic from Congo, Chad, Gabon and South Africa will not defend the Bozizi government if Seleka decides to move into the capital,” Allimadi predicted. “I am willing to bet these troops will leave in a hurry.

“The biggest victims are the ordinary people [and] the civilians who suffer … the consequences of warfare,” he said. “Sadly, the January observations have now been borne out.”

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses in Bangui, home to 600,000 people, are reporting widespread looting and gunfire. Electric power, cut four days ago, has not been restored. On Monday, rebel leader and self-proclaimed president Michel Djotodia asked regional peacekeepers stationed in the country to help him restore order.

Only 3.1percent of the land is arable, but the country has an array of natural resources, including diamonds, gold, uranium and timber.